Some thoughts on Grief


It's something we've acknowledged needs to happen when any traumatic event or loss occurs in our lives. But I wonder if we really internalize what that means and how to go through it.

Brene Brown says that there are two things human beings fear the most:  shame and grief.  At first when I heard this I thought, "What?!  Our society is always talking about grief!"  For instance, I think we've all heard about the"steps of grieving," right?  And when someone has a loved one die we "allow" them time to grieve and understand that they need to go through the process (actually, we encourage them to go through the process).  So, what is it that Brown means when she says that grief is something most people fear?

My Own Rumble with Grief
I recently had an experience where I needed to "rumble with grief" (to use Brown's words).  A few weeks ago I had my third consecutive miscarriage.  After two years of waiting and wanting, I assumed this time around it was going to be great!  Finally, we were going to have our little caboose....or not.  For that first week, I cried.  I was angry.  I was confused.  I questioned.  And I cried some more.  After the week was over, I gave myself a "pep" talk and was ready to put that all behind me and move on.

That worked for a couple of days.  The next Monday hit and I was right back to that dark abyss.  For two days I fought the darkness and was so mad that I couldn't just "shake it off."  Tuesday night a friend came with a little care package and we sat to visit.  We talked about grief a little bit, but I still didn't acknowledge that was something I needed to do. I'm a very emotive person, so holding back emotions was not something I thought I had a problem with.  Plus, I'd had my week of crying, that should have been enough...so I thought.

The next morning I did some yoga (for the first time in a few weeks) and also listened to a session of this meditation series. In the meditation message Chopra asked, "What emotion are you afraid to express?" Instantly I knew that I really was afraid to grieve.  I started to cry...and cry...and cry.  After acknowledging all of the things I was grieving (because, yes, I was still holding onto some grief I've had with moving), I felt so much better.

But why was I afraid to grieve in the first place?  As I've thought about this I realized that for me grieving was a sign of weakness.  It was a sign of ingratitude, "Why cry about that when you have so much else going for you?"  This goes hand in hand with the (sometimes erroneous) thought that with the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation we shouldn't be sad.  I also was raised with the "buck up" mentality, "Don't dwell too much on your struggles; be positive!"

Grieving isn't a One Time Event
One of the biggest lessons I've learned these past two weeks is that oftentimes grieving isn't just a one time event.  Grieving isn't something I can do by shutting myself in my room for a few weeks until I'm "done."  I need to allow myself to grieve when the moment to grieve hits me..  I can find joy in living while still having moments of grief.  We can still enjoy our days amidst the pain that fills our hearts.

In an excellent talk given by Elder Richard G. Scott, he counsels, "Don't let the workings of adversity totally absorb your life.  Try to understand what you can.  Act where you are able; then let the matter rest with the Lord...Please learn that as you wrestle with a challenge and feel sadness because of it, you can simultaneously have peace and rejoicing (italics added)."

Yes, my heart is truly broken.  Many days I feel overwhelmed with sadness, doubt, questions and confusion.  Other days I feel light and love from a Father in Heaven who is constantly pouring down His blessings upon me. Grief is not something to be feared, but rather one of the many reasons we are here in mortality in the first place.  Feeling that pain only gives us more compassion for others and even more hope in a Savior who will make it all work out in the end.  Grief is not, as I'd falsely believed, a lack of faith.  Rather, it's a special kind of pain that causes us to reach more earnestly for an intimate relationship with God. At least, that is what it has been for me.

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"Our silence about grief serves no one.  We can't heal if we can't grieve;  we can't forgive if we can't grieve.  We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.  C.S. Lewis wrote, 'No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.'  We can't rise strong when we're on the run." - - Brene Brown, Rising Strong, p. 139


Dealing with Anxiety

My daughter has anxiety. It manifests itself by her lashing out in anger, saying mean things though she doesn't really mean them, honing in on annoying habits (like loud chewing).  She will have a night here or there where she can't sleep or relax because of some major project coming up that she doesn't like or want to do.  Speaking in public can really make her anxious.  I've been watching and helping her through this for the past seven years (with some counseling as well).  It's been an uphill battle but she is learning how to conquer her fears and talk herself through these emotions.

A lot is being said about anxiety these days.  I have wondered why it seems so much more prevalent now than it was in the past.  Maybe it's always been there, but we just haven't talked about it. ?? Usually when anxiety is talked about it's described as "panic attacks" where an individual can't breathe or "clams up."  My sister would become immobilized when her house wasn't clean and she couldn't figure out where to start.  Others will avoid social situations because it just feels uncomfortable and overwhelming to interact.

Well, for the past several years I have dealt with chronic muscle pain.  Mostly the pain is targeted on my lower back, but there are other trigger points along the right side of my back and I experience muscle weakness in my arms.  Usually, it's manageable and I just need to "work out the kinks."  Since moving, however, I have had many more "attacks" so to speak to the point where I'll have days when I cannot walk.  Years ago I went through ever test imaginable - - nerve tests, MRI's, blood tests - - all of it!  After ending up in the ER during the most serious episode, I went to physical therapy for a few months.  I tried the chiropractor and have done yoga for the past few years (which has been the most helpful up to this point).  I was finally diagnosed (a.k.a. given the label) with Myofascial Syndrome - - a cousin to Fibromyalgia.

After talking with a friend and reading some stuff she lent me, it's dawned on me that at least some of this pain could be coming from anxiety.  I don't have those "sure tail signs" people talk about - -the panic feeling, shying away from social situations, afraid to speak in public, etc. - - but I have had some extra stress in my life the last few years and so I can't help but wonder if sometimes my "episodes" are a result of anxiety or tension build up.  So, I've been exploring this idea and will be learning more in the upcoming months. It's worth a try, anyway!

Having my daughter, hearing others' stories, and experiencing some of this in my life has opened my eyes more to the fact that we just don't know what is going on in people's minds.  A popular LDS hymn says, "In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see."  As I get older and learn more about others and myself I see that this statement is so, so true!  We just never know what story is lurking "behind the scenes."  It is important to love one another, to cherish the differences in one another and be merciful when others seem to falter.  And just as important is taking the time to know ourselves, accept ourselves and be merciful with ourselves.

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"There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is to not allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic." - -Elder L. Tom Perry, Oct. 2008
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